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About Detox

Drug detoxification, or detox, is the first step in a comprehensive rehabilitation program that offers all the tools required for recovery. Detox can prevent unpleasant or fatal consequences resulting from sudden cessation of use and can aid the patient in becoming abstinent from drugs. The goal of any detox program is physiological healing after long-term drug addiction – first through stabilization, then through a period of detoxification. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), after stabilization the focus of detox shifts to the monitoring and support of the various processes of the body as it rids itself of the drug, and to the managing the often unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that result. No matter what the drug, a professionally supervised, medication assisted detox is often the safest choice, especially when co-occurring mental health disorders are an issue. On rare occasions, withdrawal symptoms can lead to complications and serious health issues that require immediate medical attention.

For this reason, it is rarely recommended that patients attempt detox at home when significant substance abuse issues are present. Instead, enrollment at an inpatient detox program that provides 24-hour assistance if necessary, ongoing monitoring of vitals and symptoms, and a therapeutic follow-up program is recommended.

Duration of Drug Detox

A given period of drug detoxification will last as long as the withdrawal symptoms persist, and for as long as it takes for the patient to stabilize physically and mentally, according to the NIDA. In addition to stopping the abuse of addictive substances safely and supporting the patient through withdrawal symptoms, another goal of detox is to help prepare the patient physically and mentally for the work that lies ahead in therapy and counseling. In some cases, antidepressant medications or antipsychotics might be necessary if there are co-occurring issues of depression or a mental health disorder. Depression is commonly seen in people who are addicted to stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamines and opioids such as heroin or prescription painkillers. People suffering from psychiatric issues could benefit from antidepressants or antipsychotics in order to stabilize. Finding a stable dosage of these medications will help to prepare the patient to begin the process of working through other issues that might be driving or worsening their addiction issues. It’s important to note that not every patient will successfully complete detox on the first try. In some cases, multiple attempts will be made before sobriety takes hold. Addiction is defined by relapse and is chronic by nature. We know this can be an incredibly difficult time for everyone involved, however maintaining hope is crucial in the recovery process. There’s always hope even when relapse seems constant. The only way to create lasting change is to keep trying.

The Process of Detoxification

Everyone’s detox needs are different. The drug detox process helps addicted people get personalized treatment. In most cases, the process involves three steps.

Evaluation

The clinical team screens incoming patients for physical and mental health issues. This helps determine the level of assistance needed. There is also a comprehensive review of drug, medical and psychiatric histories. This information sets up the basis for the patient’s long-term treatment plan.

Stabilization

The next step is to stabilize the patient with medication assistance and psychological therapy. The goal of stabilization is to prevent any form of harm to the patient. Doctors can prescribe addiction treatment medications to prevent complications and reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Preparing Entry into Treatment

The final step of detox is preparation for a treatment program. The clinical team familiarize their patients with the treatment process and what to expect. Inpatient treatment offers the best chances of success after detox. If detox takes place in an inpatient program, this last step is crucial to keep patients on track.

Addictive substances change the body’s physical and psychological functioning. Over time, most individuals experience a level of dependence on the substance and suffer if they can’t access another dose. Even caffeine requires detox. Alcohol and harder drugs like prescription painkillers and cocaine may require detox before a person can begin the psychological healing process.

What Is Detox?

After a certain period of time without addictive substances, individuals start to experience withdrawal symptoms. The body craves another dose. When it doesn’t receive the drug, the brain may go into overdrive and experience an extreme reversal of symptoms compared to the drug’s effects. Signs and symptoms often appear shortly after a user abstains and may affect the mind and body for extended periods of time. Detox describes the timeframe when someone avoids a certain substance in an effort to rid the body of chemicals and toxins associated with drug addiction.

Detox will happen naturally given enough time, but medical professionals can use certain substances to counteract withdrawal symptoms and hasten the detox process. Every individual is different and may require a different approach, but some trends in detox timelines remain consistent for the general population.

Types Of Drugs And General Detox Timeframes

Different drugs affect the mind and body in different ways and may contribute to specific withdrawal symptoms. Consider the general timeframes for some of the most addictive substances recovery centers treat

  • One class of drugs includes medications such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. Depending on the individual, withdrawal symptoms may appear as soon as one day or within a week of abstinence. During the first two weeks of detox, an individual may experience the most serious withdrawal symptoms. Common symptoms patients can expect to experience include increased anxiety, insomnia, headache, tension, nausea, difficulty focusing, high blood pressure, and heart palpitations.
  • Another class of drugs includes Cocaine and other stimulants. Stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines tend to enter and leave the bloodstream quickly. The high an individual experiences typically doesn’t last long, and addiction patterns often involve bingeing on the substance.
After a repeated pattern of using, individuals can expect to experience a serious crash that may last as long as a several hours or several days. The initial detox period typically takes up to three weeks for most users. During this time, symptoms may include intense psychological cravings, anxiety, depression, hunger, fatigue, paranoia, and an abnormally low heartbeat.

  • Alcohol withdrawal can cause serious symptoms that may require emergency medical treatment. Symptoms may last anywhere from a few days to several weeks or months at a time, depending on the individual. Serious withdrawal symptoms are more likely to appear in individuals who drink a pint of hard liquor, 4-5 pints of wine, or 7-8 pints of beer on a daily basis over an extended period of time.
During the acute withdrawal phase, alcohol abusers typically experience the DTs (delirium tremens), a condition that affects the nervous system. Individuals may experience the DTs within a few days of avoiding drinking. It can cause tremors, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, and other symptoms requiring immediate intervention. Other alcohol withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, depression, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, headache, and heart palpitations. Physical withdrawal symptoms may ease off after a week or so of detox.

  • Heroin and prescription-strength pain relievers. Opioid withdrawal from substances such as heroin, oxycodone, Percocet, and methadone may last anywhere from a few hours to several days or weeks. The worst symptoms typically arise within two days of abstinence. Symptoms often include dilated pupils, intense drug cravings, stomach upset, nausea, body aches, and agitation.
Unfortunately, information about a patient’s individual detox process and timeframe can’t be found online. A recovery specialist may provide more insight into someone’s situation, but every detox experience is unique. Factors that commonly affect the length and severity of the detox process include.

  • Genetic makeup
  • General health and mental wellness
  • The timeframe of abuse
  • The method of ingestion
  • The amount of substance taken with each dose
  • Environmental factors
While the acute phase of withdrawal usually ends within a short timeframe, recovering drug addicts may experience psychological symptoms for a much longer period of time. Many require ongoing therapy in the first months or years after detox.

Can Addicted Individuals Detox On Their Own?

Most individuals suffering with substance abuse and addiction issues can’t detox on their own. They require medical attention for physical and mental support and to decrease the likelihood of a relapse. Always consult a physician before undertaking any major changes in your lifestyle or medications (prescribed or not). Whenever possible, it is always suggested to enlist the help of a professional when going through such a difficult process to keep yourself safe and to gain lasting result.

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